Jacki Zehner On Women, Money, and Changing the World  » What Do You Believe?

October 23, 2015

What Do You Believe?

DSC01796  Published on LinkedIn on October 23, 2015

In this series,  professionals share how their beliefs have shaped their careers, businesses and the workforce. Join the conversation by writing a response (please include the hashtag #Belief in the body of your post).

What do I believe? That was the question facing me on a recent morning when an article about Oprah’s upcoming mini-series event, Belief, airing October 18th-24th on OWN, landed in my inbox. In an interview for the Huffington Post, Oprah states that, “your beliefs really determine what you manifest in your life”, and I couldn’t agree more.

But then, back to that question. What do I believe? Really truly believe?

That’s a lot to process before my morning cup of coffee, because when it comes down to it, I believe a lot of things. I believe that a night at the movies is a good night out. I believe that taking my dogs for a walk is one of life’s great pleasures. I believe that chocolate absolutely is a necessity of life. I believe in my family and friends, my community and my faith, and I believe that we all have a purpose here on earth. But what is my core belief? What drives my work, my passion, and my life, on a day-to-day basis? I think I’ll take that cup of coffee now.

For over 20 years, I have advocated for gender equality. My passion for this issue was ignited during my time at Goldman Sachs where as a trader, I was often the only woman at the table. I was fortunate to have a very successful career on Wall Street, but I was acutely aware that I was the exception and not the rule, and I actively worked within Goldman to improve opportunities for women at the firm, and the financial industry more generally. Since leaving Goldman in 2002, I have put all of my resources towards attaining gender equality, which has ultimately led me to my current position as CEO of Women Moving Millions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls. My work is my passion, and I hope that this passion shines through every time I raise my voice on this issue.



While doing this work, I’m often asked, “Why woman and girls?” It’s a fair question, because sadly, the world is not lacking in problems that need to be solved. But it is also a question that is easy to answer. I choose to spend my life advocating for greater gender balance, because I believe achieving this is the only way we’ll move the dial on so many other pressing issues. How can we expect to find the solutions we so desperately need when half of the world’s population isn’t fairly represented at decision making tables? When the research tells us time and time again that empowering women and girls is the key to ending poverty, hunger, and violence, how can we not focus on woman and girls and gender balance?

Nicholas Kristof once stated that gender inequality was the “central moral challenge of the 21st century“, and while I am in complete agreement with this wonderful man, I also think it goes much further than that. We simply cannot afford to keep woman and girls from reaching their full potential any longer.  Socially, politically, or economically. It is for this reason that I continue to march myself around the country, and occasionally around the world, making the case for gender equity. I study the facts, aggregate research reports, share my story with others, and encourage others to do the same. This issue is my life’s passion, and I will keep at it until the day I die, or until we achieve true gender parity. I don’t think it needs to be said which one I would prefer to come first.

So, what do I believe? I believe that achieving gender equality will benefit every man, woman, and child. I believe that once we are all afforded the same rights and opportunities, the advancements we will make together will astound even the most cynical among us. I believe that raising one group up does not entail pushing another group down, and I believe that when we all move forward together as one, everyone wins. But above all else, I believe that a better future awaits us, and a world where men and women are treated as equals is the way to get there. It may take several more cups of coffee, but I’m ready to do this. How about you? #Belief

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